Look and Feel Your Best Without Compromising Your Baby’s Health

Hope you’ve been enjoying all the insight and wisdom that’s being shared on these Tele-Summit calls. This evening is our 4th call in the series: “Look and Feel Your Best Without Compromising Your Baby’s Health.” I’ll be the resident expert for today’s session and I’ll be talking about something very important –-the hidden health threats to your baby from the personal care and beauty products you use! Some of the things I’ll cover on tonight’s session:

  • Startling new research about ingredients in mass-produced personal care products that may pre-dispose your baby to obesity (among other serious health problems!)
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  • The top 10 ingredients you MUST avoid to keep you and your baby safe and how you can find out if the products you’re using right now may contain them
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  • Using Mother Nature’s Rx: Essential Oils to safely address some of the most common pregnancy-related complaints

Much of what I’ll be sharing on tonight’s call applies to you whether you are pregnant or not, but becomes even more important when you are or planning to be. There’s no better time than now to take inventory of the products you currently use and toss the ones that are bad for you. Come join me and learn how to become a more conscious consumer so you can stop exposing your baby to hidden threats from toxic exposure while learning how to identify and choose safer, more effective natural alternatives.

We’re going LIVE at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern. Don’t miss this very important call!

If you’re pregnant now, are planning to become pregnant, work with pregnant women and want to better support them through this journey, or know anyone who fits any of these criteria, please share this with them and encourage them to register at: http://www.dropwise.info. It’s FREE!

Biting Off More Than They Can Chew: Is the Environmental Working Group Going Too Far?

In my last post I questioned whether the Environmental Working Group is starting to cross the line from being an independent research and activist organization agitating for meaningful and desirable change to a slightly overzealous mouth-piece that is relying on its growing visibility and clout to use fear-mongering to achieve its goals. This observation is not based solely on the information and recommendations in its 2010 Sunscreen Guide.

I recently noticed the Skin Deep ratings on some of our products slip a little (from the lowest safety concern rankings of 1 to 3 to a 4). If it were not for the essential oils used in the products, all of our products would originally have had rankings of 1 and 2. Now I’m told that some products have been flagged due to the use of certain ingredients they are beginning to scrutinize like Sodium Borate (the botanical or INCI name for Borax) and now Emulsifying Wax. Both of these ingredients (certainly the latter) are widely used in the manufacturing of creams and lotions (including natural products) to bind the water and the oils together to form stable products that don’t separate after they’ve been made.

Sodium Borate or Sodium Tetraborate as its sometimes called is a naturally occurring mineral that’s marketed under the common name Borax and used as a common water softener. When used in a cream or lotion, its purpose is to soften the water making it easier to bind with beeswax. Usually it is used in very small quantities (i.e. a 1/2 teaspoon per gallon). Emulsifying Wax is usually used in place of beeswax, partly because it’s less expensive and also because it makes a superior and very stable emulsion. You would be hard-pressed to find a good lotion or cream that doesn’t use it (by good I mean one that goes on smoothly and doesn’t separate over time or use other funky ingredients as a replacement). We use a combination of beeswax and vegetable emulsifying wax in our lotions and a pinch of sodium borate to facilitate the emulsion.

The EWG is beginning to scrutinize and question it because there’s not a lot of disclosure as to what is in this ingredient, which can vary somewhat from one supplier to the next. I am guessing that they are concerned that it will eventually be revealed that this ingredient (or some versions of it) contains potentially harmful ingredients, in much the same way that many “fragrances” contain phthalates, which most people weren’t aware of until recently because there is no requirement to disclose the components of a fragrance by the fragrance manufacturer.

As I’ve said before, I don’t question or take issue with EWG’s intentions. I think they are honorable. But I have to wonder, given the thousands of chemicals and ingredients used in beauty and personal care products at present, are they biting off more than they can chew by going after all of them at once? Certainly there are far worse offenders when it comes to products and ingredients. While taking an approach of ‘better safe than sorry’ is admirable, when it ends up being a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ situation does this really serve everyone’s best interests?

What irks me about this is that now the burden of proof is being placed on all the companies using these ingredients (big and small) to demonstrate that it’s not harmful. As a small manufacturer, my hands are tied because the ingredient manufacturers are the ones who refuse to provide complete disclosure. What I want to know is why EWG is not putting more pressure on the ingredient manufacturers? All their efforts at the moment are focused on product manufacturers. This is not a balanced approach and threatens to harm the little guys who don’t always have the information they need to make better choices or whose choices are limited by what’s available in the ingredients marketplace.

Sometimes I think the EWG is going a little too far and the end result as I mentioned in my last post is more confusion and fear for the consumer with no reliable way to make their own truly informed decisions. At the same time, small product manufacturers who are trying to do right by their customers are hurt in the process because of the false perception created by exaggerated or inadequately qualified safety concern ratings. If you scrutinize their ratings you will frequently find what they themselves have identified as a Data Gap –meaning incomplete information about an ingredient that gives it a more questionable ranking which can ultimately raise the overall ranking of a product that contains it.

They need to pick their battles wisely instead of trying to cover all their bases at the same time and diluting their efforts in the process. Certainly there are bigger fish to fry right now … Start with the worst of the worst. And work step-wise from there.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d really like to know. Should the EWG (and the FDA for that matter) focus all their energy and limited funds on scrutinizing every ingredient out there because they believe it may pose potential harm? Or should they focus on eliminating ingredients that are already known toxins?

The Precautionary Principle Run Amok: Walking a Fine Line …

As a member of the Safe Cosmetics Campaign and a participant in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database, I support and applaud these organizations efforts to bring some reform to the way cosmetics and personal care products are formulated -especially in the case where products are still being made with known toxins. With the recent introduction of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, they are clearly making some significant strides in moving their agenda forward.

This is important work because of the potential benefits and protection it could provide consumers who are at present like experimental subjects in the giant petri dish that comprises the $35 billion a year beauty and personal care industry (often ironically referred to as HABA or HBA which is shorthand for Health and Beauty).

However as a small manufacturer who is working hard and diligently to make safe and effective products I sometimes wonder if, in spite of their best intentions, they are on a course that will soon run amok. What I mean is as they continue to gain credibility as an independent authority on the subject (and right now they are pretty much the ONLY independent authority on the subject) they will begin to wield real power or market clout that can have an impact on consumers perceptions of what’s safe and what’s not. And that is not something to be taken lightly.

While these are the “good guys” looking out for your health and safety, at the end of the day they are NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that have neither the scientific backing nor the funding to legitimately substantiate all the red flags they are continually raising. They are walking a fine line now between fear-mongering and agitating for meaningful change.

The latest red flag is the finding from a 2009 FDA study that the ingredient Retinyl Palmitate, which is a synthetic form of Vitamin A found in many skin care products and apparently widely used in sunscreens as well, may actually speed the development of cancer, even when present in low doses. The industry puts Vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging. It seems that if you use these products at night or indoors you’re ok but if you go out into the sun after applying them you may be in big trouble.

This is not an insignificant finding, however I have to wonder what must be going on in the average consumer’s head when they hear this. In its 2010 Sunscreen Guide, the EWG recommends that consumers avoid all sunscreen products with this ingredient. If more than 40% of sun products contain it then that doesn’t leave a lot of options to choose from. Basically, out of 1400 products with sunscreen that were assessed, the EWG identified only 39 products that were worthy of their coveted “green” rating and all of those products used zinc or titanium oxide (sun blocks) as their primary ingredients.

It reminds me of the story of the boy who cried wolf. If day in and day out, all we hear is more bad news about cancer-causing ingredients and products and little or no useful or better alternatives we can trust, then we might as well all slit our wrists and jump off a cliff now and get it over with! I’m being facetious of course. But my point is if this is all that’s presented to us, eventually fatigue will set in and we will stop listening and that’s not good for anyone. This is one of my fears about what might happen if the EWG continues to lead us down this rabbit hole.